The Little Train That Did
December 20, 2018
A Record Breaking Year for the Downeaster
by Joe Aiello | Northeast Field Coordinator
“Well I'm on the Downeaster Alexa” - Billy Joel
Wrong type of transportation, Piano Man.
Okay. I promise this won’t be the pop culture romp that last week’s blog was.
Last Friday, council member Wayne Davis and TrainRiders/Northeast held their 30th Annual Meeting in Portland, Maine to celebrate the 17th Birthday of the famed Downeaster service. I joined Bruce Becker, Vice Chair Tom Girsch, council members Steve Musen, Andy Cabal & Tim Moore, former councillor Chris Parker, and dozens of others at the luncheon. I was lucky enough to attend the meeting last year as a Massachusetts council member and it’s something I look forward to even more as Rail Passengers staff - it doesn't hurt that I really love that route.
Gene Skoropowski, the man behind Brightline in Florida, was the keynote speaker and it’s always great to hear what’s going on through his consulting work. Amtrak’s Mariah Morales updated us on some of the national work they are going in the Government Affairs office - highlighting some of the changes that the company has been rolling out over the past year and some hints at what is to come. Senator Angus King stopped by as a surprise guest to pay his respects to all of those involved with the train (He mentioned riding the inaugural run with Gov Dukakis so, of course, I was able to speak to him briefly afterward. It’s hard not to namedrop your mentor).
NNEPRA’s (and one of the 2018 Railway Age “leading women in rail”) Patricia Quinn gave an FY18 update on the Downeaster - which was very impressive.
The number that really stuck out to me amongst all the others (and we are talking about a train that broke ridership and profit numbers in 9 of 12 months last year) was the July 2018 ridership of 57,652. That means, for the 31 days of that month, the Downeaster was averaging 1,859 daily riders between Boston and Brunswick - with only 5 daily trips. (You can read more about the Downeaster’s record breaking year HERE) This is pretty incredible for a route that people said would never be used when Wayne Davis and his team first proposed it.
With a 5th daily round trip to Brunswick now on the books and long awaited summer expansion to Rockland (Lobster Festival, anyone?) on the horizon, the future is so very bright for the Downeaster… the little train that did.
The blog will be quiet for the next two weeks so I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday and a very happy new year!
"The National Association of Railroad Passengers has done yeoman work over the years and in fact if it weren’t for NARP, I'd be surprised if Amtrak were still in possession of as a large a network as they have. So they've done good work, they're very good on the factual case."
Robert Gallamore, Director of Transportation Center at Northwestern University and former Federal Railroad Administration official, Director of Transportation Center at Northwestern University
November 17, 2005, on The Leonard Lopate Show (with guest host Chris Bannon), WNYC New York.